INKLINGS: My (non) green thumb

  • Thursday, March 8, 2012

          Agatha Christie once wrote a short story called “The Herb of Death.” As I looked at the funereal bier that was my latest attempt at growing herbs, I knew any story I wrote would have to be titled “The Death of Herbs.” Both stories mysteries, of course: only mine would remain unsolved.           I’ve planted herbs in clay pots, colorful enamel containers, wicker window boxes and once in a dry fountain base filled in with the absolutely best potting soil available. I even tried them outside in God’s good ground. I tried growing them from seed and from seedlings. Nothing flourished.           Alas, I am the family pariah when it comes to things earthy. Mom was a farmer’s daughter and could root a straw. Once that grew, she could take cuttings and grow a forest of them.           My sister inherited that DNA and my brothers do well here also. I am blessed with a husband who takes after his father and is a wonderful gardener too. We have azaleas, camellias, roses and gardenias galore. But my agricultural career can be summed up in one short sad sentence: “My plastic ivy died.”           The sad thing about me is that I keep trying. My potted geraniums shrivel. Replacement pansies wane. Hanging baskets of Boston ivy give up and quickly resemble lethargic ladders. After several years and several hundred dollars worth of fresh flowers, I have invested in a few really nice silk arrangements. I’ve kept them going with brisk dusting and a spray cleaner.           I even have hanging baskets of colorful silk outdoors. I don’t call them artificial. They’re silk. There’re natural. They’re colorful, don’t burn up in the South Carolina sun and even I can’t over or under water them or give them the wrong food. They have to be fluffed up and restructured with new flowers occasionally, but I have consistent color and no more depressing drooping.           But you can’t cook with silk herbs and I love that fresh taste. Hence I was recently seduced by my favorite grocery with these enticing pots. The herbs were wrapped in bright plastic and all you had to do was take off the upper sleeve, put these beauties on a tray, water them from the bottom and garner a harvest of flavor from the top every day for weeks and weeks. I had the perfect southern exposure window and set up my tray garden of basil, oregano and parsley, fertilized with my perennial hope.           The very next day the bottom leaves were bending over into the tray. All the water was absorbed and the plants felt semi-dry, so of course, I poured in a teeny bit more water so they wouldn’t die of thirst. More stems had gone overboard the next day, so I didn’t water until the soil felt just a bit drier. The next few days teeter-tottered back and forth between wet and dry and more sagging stems. Finally I clipped the few remaining leaves from the top and enjoyed a couple of recipes with enhanced tomato taste. Then I scooped up the detritus and interred the herbal remains. I’m through. Finished. No more!           On the other hand, I understand rosemary is fragrant and makes a beautiful bush. Maybe I might try . . .  

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